Interactive and the Brand Experience Cycle

You’ve probably heard of the purchase funnel. The stages in purchase funnels vary, but for the most part they are awareness, consideration, preference, purchase, and sometimes retention (loyalty).

purchase funnel

Consider instead the brand experience cycle, my version of what most people call the purchase funnel. I prefer a cycle because, visually, a funnel has an end to it. Yet most successful brands enjoy multiple purchase cycles. Assuming the brand experience is a good one, customers come back to buy again.

purchase cycle

I put together the brand experience cycle with the notion you can influence a customer through interactive marketing at any point along in the cycle. Interactive marketing can, and should, play a role in all stages of the brand experience cycle. Though online media is perhaps best suited to increase awareness, consideration, and preference, the experience part of the cycle should be closely tied to the Web site and loyalty to e-CRM (define) programs.

Some specifics:

  • Awareness. We’ve finally reached a point where brands want interactive media to play the lead role in a media plan. And we now have the ability to deliver the mass reach of a core target audience while pinpointing that target. With video capabilities, the Internet can play the role TV has traditionally played in generating awareness.

  • Consideration. With interactive media, we can connect with people who have demonstrated an interest in our category. Through behavioral targeting, we can talk with people who may be considering a purchase, even when they’re not actively researching that purchase. We may find them in the sports section of a Web site, for example, but because we know they visited the auto section twice in the last week, we can engage them with more highly targeted messaging, affecting their consideration set.
  • Preference. How do we get people to prefer our brand over another? This part of the brand experience cycle is a direct response phase. At this point, people are truly in market. Consider that for so many categories, the Internet is now the de facto product information resource. In this phase, customers perform searches, visit comparison shopping sites, and read product reviews. This is where interactive media enables us to target these customers with pinpoint precision and ultimately to sway them toward preferring our brand.
  • Experience. In a traditional purchase funnel, this phase is called “purchase.” But for many brands, this phase has evolved into an experiential one. Sure, for a lot of products and services, “purchase” still makes sense: deodorant, office supplies, auto parts. For categories such as automotive, fashion, travel, and entertainment, however, this is truly an experience. What we drive and wear and watch, and where we go in our leisure time say a lot about who we are. People get excited about brands they use in these categories. A Web site has a role to play in generating that excitement and in delivering the information a customer needs to make the most of that brand experience.

    Loyalty. Loyalty is a function of a great brand experience. Interactive marketing can and should play a huge role in generating loyalty. Use your Web site to facilitate loyalty. Perhaps develop communities for brand loyalists, or maybe create a personalized site and newsletters.

Once the customer has gone through the cycle and has had a good brand experience, the next time he’s in the market, your goal can be to skip awareness and consideration and go straight to preference. The idea is you’re always using interactive marketing to draw people into the various phases of the brand experience cycle.

The next time someone asks, “Where does interactive marketing fit into the overall marketing mix?” you can answer based on the brand experience cycle.

If you have other ideas about how interactive marketing or, more specifically, online media can play a role in the brand experience cycle, give me a shout.

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